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You and I both know that it’s not easy and hardly cheap to make fundamental structural changes at home. One common concern is low ceilings. We all want to bring them up – at least create the visual illusion that the ceiling is higher than it is. The good news is that this is doable with a few interior design tricks. The great news is that you wouldn’t need a high ceiling in the first place.
Who wants high ceilings? (I do…But…)
Rooms with high ceilings are beautiful. No doubt about that! They create great impressions and are extremely elegant (I just love them!!!). BUT. And there is a big ‘but’ here. It takes more paint and thus money – not to mention the effort – to change the color of the walls. I don’t even go to the point where you have to paint the ceilings. You won’t be able to change the light bulb either. If there is a room in your house with a cathedral ceiling, you know what I am talking about! And then there is the matter of heating. Try heating up a high ceiling room without going bankrupt.
On the other hand, low ceilings are not everything we dreamt of
Rooms with low ceilings are cozy. Yes, but they can also be claustrophobic. And if they are too low, try hanging a pendant without bumping your head. But you can reach the light bulb much easier. And you paint them easier and without spending a small fortune. Speaking of money, you don’t have to win the lottery in order to heat the house.
Since the nicest impressions are created with the right scale & proportion, the trick is to bring balance in the room. For example, a good architectural idea is to keep the height of the ceilings at average levels while making the room wider. This combo will give the right scale and proportion. But what if your room is not wide? You can’t grab and stretch it now, can you? What you can do is use some tricks to make the ceiling look much higher while taking advantage of the benefits of low ceiling rooms. Let’s see how.
The ultimate solutions to make the ceiling look higher
- Use the right colors
The whiter the room, the large it will look. So don’t be afraid to play with white. After all, there is more than ‘one’ white. There are many shades of white to paint both the ceiling and walls. If you don’t like white (or too much white), stick with light colors. The upper you go on the wall, the lighter the color should be to let the eye travel upwards.
One very successful trick is to paint the ceiling with a high gloss finish. It will act as a mirror reflecting all objects beneath and thus making the walls seem very tall. If you don’t like it too glossy, you can still use a semi-glossy white and get a similar effect.
- Bring the wainscoting panel down
If you are planning to install a beadboard wainscoting, it will be easy to give the impression that the ceiling is higher. And that’s because most sheets have vertical beaded planks, which will create the illusion you want to give.
For any other wainscoting design, it’s best to keep the board 1/3 up the wall max. In fact, the lower it stands the better. Since panels cut the wall in two, the upper part should have the largest proportion to give the impression that the wall is taller.
Don’t forget about painting wainscoting right too. Don’t use contrasting colors for the panel and wall unless the board is really low. It’s often best to use the same color.
- Install recessed lighting
Anything hanging from the ceiling will bring it further down. And that’s the opposite of what you are trying to achieve here. Another problem has to do with your convenience. As I have already said above, you don’t want to bump your head in the pendants.
Since your intention is to bring the ceiling further up, install recessed lighting. They are an excellent idea since they hide in the ceiling saving you valuable space and making the room look bigger. You can also place some sconces at the upper part of the walls.
We fell in love with the modern wall sconces at YLighting.
- Keep the crown molding thin
The crown molding is an essential architectural element since it covers the ‘rough edge’ where the wall and ceiling meet. There are many styles and sizes and you should use a thin and simple crown molding so that it will do its job without attracting attention. It’s best to paint it the same color as the ceiling. An alternative solution is to remove it.
- How about striped walls?
Vertical stripes will lead the eye upwards and thus fool it to believe that the ceiling is higher. It’s the same thing with clothes. We wear vertically striped clothes to look thinner. The rationale applies wonderfully to walls too. They would look as they travel on a long highway with no ending. Use black & white or other contrasting colors to create a dramatic effect.
- Keep objects in a vertical line too
The ‘vertical stripes’ trick works nicely with the objects in the room too. Especially, wall decors. So, if you plan to hang artwork, framed pictures, or other items, prefer rectangular shapes and place them vertically. It will also help if you display any other item in the room vertically. For example, choose a rather thin and tall bookcase. If it’s a floor-to-ceiling bookcase with tall shelves, even better. As for decorations, don’t display small items on the upper shelves. Put the larger ones on the top shelves and keep the small objects on the bottom ones.
- Keep furniture low
Avoid heavy and large furniture, especially if the room is not just short but also small. The idea is to display them horizontally giving the impression that there is a distance between sofas & coffee tables and the ceiling. One more advice: keep decorations simple and the room as minimal as possible to unblock views and thus create the feeling that the room is large.
Check out some wonderful furnishing ideas at LexMod.
- Place the curtains higher
If there is a considerable headroom over the curtains, the ceiling will come down. So forget about the conventional way of hanging your drapes. Bring them up. If possible, hang them from the ceiling. What happens here is that the eye has been taught to associate the length of the curtains to the height of the windows and consequently the height of the walls. So when you hang them higher, you create the illusion that the walls are taller. One more tip: keep drapes simple – don’t use perplexed textures and dark colors.
- DO bring the ceiling higher (for real)
If you are going to make ceiling changes, avoid any designs which bring the ceiling down – drop or coffered ceilings. If you are planning to put yourself into such hassle, think of the alternative of exposing the structure. It will be a great idea if you are a fan of industrial looking homes.
The good news about such projects is that many low ceilings were not in the initial architectural plans. They were created later by homeowners who were trying to bring the ceiling down either to hide ducts in the basement or to install canned lights. And so they installed drywalls, which can be removed to expose the bones of the structure – perhaps, along with the ducts. But if you don’t mind some exposed pipes running along the ceiling, you will enjoy a better headroom since you will actually bring the ceiling up.
- Use mirrors
Whatever reflects light (and objects) makes spaces look bigger. Mirrors have that advantage. Just like a high-gloss paint, a mirror on the ceiling will create the impression that there is an abyss. And it is an alternative interior design idea. If you don’t like it, you can always use mirrors in the room. Choose vertical lines here too. A thin and tall mirror hanging on the wall or just leaning against it will give the impression that the space is large.
- Enlarge the openings
If your home improvement involves making structural changes, invest in enlarging the windows and openings. They make the room look bigger. The natural light helps in that direction too.
What you can also do is enlarge internal openings. Bring down walls to connect rooms or create an open plan kitchen. When the space is bigger by nature, it looks taller too.
One more thing. If there is door casing, keep it up too. The molding should still be thin and elegant, and the opening must be high to create the desired architectural effect.
Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind…
That each home is special. What you can do is read ideas keeping your home’s architectural structure and special needs in mind. There are expensive and inexpensive ways to bring up the ceiling. So whatever suits you, your home, and your budget!